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Slow Chinese 每周漫闻 is an entertaining weekly dose of interesting words, phrases and idioms from the week’s news for learners of Chinese who want to take their language skills to the next level.
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What’s the best way to say Happy New Year of the Ox (牛年大吉 – Niú nián dàjí)3 min read

26 February 2021 2 min read

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What’s the best way to say Happy New Year of the Ox (牛年大吉 – Niú nián dàjí)3 min read

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Anything can happen (and normally does) up to and during a meeting in a Chinese setting – especially at Chinese New Year when so much is going on.

Most common surprises include…

An elaborate gift-giving ceremony with a chaotically choreographed photo opportunity;

An inspiring Chinese opera or poetry recital;

Impromptu speeches ending with people sobbing their hearts out;

Or, my personal favourite, a full-on camera crew turning up for interviews to be broadcast in another province later that evening.

The agenda is always in a state of flux.

But it does keep life interesting. Zoom, well Tencent VooV now, meetings are no different.

Set-piece speeches are a must-have on the agenda. I get nervous about speeches at the best of times – especially ones in Chinese.

So when I was asked at very short notice (7 minutes) to do a short opening speech at the start of our online CNY bash this morning, panic set in.

I should know better by now. And fortunately, for once, I came prepared! In the process I discovered some good new Ox Year words.

The biggest problem with a CNY speech is you have to land the basics, the formulaic bits that everyone expects you to say, but you’ve also got to deliver something new with a personal touch, and get people’s emotions going.

So, the first thing is to prepare a short set-piece speech, or even a poem – just a few lines. I discovered this amazing link with a long list of options for great things to say to mark the Year of the Ox.

In there I found a short poem.

  • 白雪,下与不下,这也是个新年 (Báixuě, xià yǔ bùxià, zhè yěshì gè xīnnián)

Whether it snows or not, it’s still New Year,

  • 老家,回与不回,心总是有挂牵 (Lǎojiā, huí yǔ bù huí, xīn zǒng shì yǒu guàqiān)

Wether we return home or not, we still miss it in our hearts,

  • 年饭,丰与不丰,总是要吃的 (Niánfàn, fēng yǔ bù fēng, zǒng shì yào chī de)

Whether our New Year dinner is lavish or not, we still will eat,

  • 短信,发与不发,我一直祝福您 (Duǎnxìn, fā yǔ bù fā, wǒ yīzhí zhùfú nín)

Whether you text or not, I will still wish you a Happy New Year!

Unexpected part with a personal touch – Tick! (Particularly resonant given that many people this year are not able to go home for New Year – they are 就地过年 – Jiù dì guònián).

Second, is to have the basics at your finger tips. It seems, in the Year of the Ox, these are the killer lines to drop:

牛年吉祥、牛气冲天

Niú nián jíxiáng, niúqi chōngtiān

“Lucky Year of the Ox, you can reach the sky with Ox power!”

Finally, you’ve got to do the looking back, and the looking forward part. Setting the scene by using a point in time is much more important in Chinese. Looking back on where we’ve come from (together) get’s people feeling emotional – it’s a great way to cover up all your language imperfections!

So, what’s the best way to say Happy New Year of the Ox?

Get the basics right first, memorise a short poem to really impress and do some emotional looking back for good measure.

This link is a great resource for those wanting to not embarrass themselves too badly, like I normally do, during Chinese New Year festivities over the next couple of weeks.

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